Over the weekend, the PM and his team will be digesting the data on how the pandemic is responding to the lockdown and vaccine rollout, and making their final decisions about how to unlock the country and what to announce on Monday.

This unlocking  also represents the biggest communications challenge for the Government to date. 

As we approach the next phase of this emotional rollercoaster, I have been thinking a lot about how politics and politicians, through their communications, drive the mood of the country.  The role Government has played and will continue to play in changing how we feel, and in shaping the choices we make every day.

How do you effectively manage the psychology of a whole country, how do you speak to a nation that is as diverse and complex as the UK?  A Nation experiencing the same event, at the same time but in many different ways.

At the beginning of the pandemic, the Government held all the information, access to data and scientists and the nation was naive, slightly scared and more trusting. A year later, the nation is more scarred than scared, we are all tired, slightly falling apart, and most importantly we all think we are experts. Scientists are plastered across all media channels 24/7, we can all analyse the daily data releases and the trust in Government has been significantly eroded.

There is a growing group of people keen to unlock quickly, business sectors that are desperate to start trading and increasingly large numbers of people who have been vaccinated. Keeping control of the unlock is going to be increasingly challenging. 

What a huge responsibility and incredible opportunity this is for a Government, the opportunity to not just convey information but to shape how we feel and what we do too. 

The direct and indirect messages that the Government sends out in a time of national crisis are critical. We are all listening. As we gradually release restrictions over the next few months then what the PM says next week, really matters.

It will be good communications that will control our journey to freedom. Communications that need to maintain compliance, whilst also giving people hope and at the same time asking them to dig a bit deeper for a bit longer? I’m not sure another snappy six word slogan is the answer this time. 

The importance of getting the message right, really has never been greater.

At this period of change for the UK, as we try to navigate our way out of this pandemic, and simultaneously try to reshape our post-Covid and post-Brexit economy and society there are balances to be struck.  

On the one hand creating a national mood of optimism and opportunity, whilst also remembering the people that have been lost, the sacrifices that have been made and the scars that will be left by this pandemic.

It is a great reminder of the power of good communications, and that for all leaders, how you communicate is a critical part of how effectively you can steer your business (or your country) through a period of crisis, change or instability. This is why we have seen businesses invest in communications throughout this pandemic and why they will continue to invest as they lead their people, customers and investors through this period of change.

As a leader in any organisation, how you communicate matters, this is more true now than ever. 

What I know is that for all organisations, good communications must be informed by proper strategic thinking, must be embedded in reality,  and must be delivered with authenticity. 

There is a mantra that I love and always fall back on to help clients to focus and to cut through pages of briefing material. It is the simplest question that you must always be able to answer ahead of any speech, meeting or presentation or national address for that matter. 

I will share it with you, you can thank me later. Ask yourself:

“What do I want them to think and what do I want them to do?”

If you can answer this question clearly, you are prepared; that thought process will shape how you present yourself, what you say and how you respond to questions. It will allow you to moderate your natural instincts and to push yourself to act outside of your comfort zone if necessary. 

Next time you have something important to communicate take a step back and ask yourself this question. 

Try it, it works, honest.

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